Palmerston North could face a 3.1 per cent increase in rates

Development of the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery aviaries at Victoria Esplanade will be a major feature of the ...

Development of the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery aviaries at Victoria Esplanade will be a major feature of the Palmerston North City Council's spending this year.

Palmerston North ratepayers could face a 3.1 per cent total rates rise in 2016-17 based on the first draft of the annual budget.

The draft consultation booklet, "Are we on track?" and supporting documents will be reviewed by the city council's committee of council meeting on Monday.

At this stage the proposed rates increase is lower than the 4.5 per cent forecast in the 10 year plan, and lower than this year's 3.9 per cent increase.

It says the rates for most properties would increase by less than 3.1 per cent, because the city has been growing so there are more properties to share the total cost.

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The rates are likely to fall more evenly for homeowners than last year, when large variations in property revaluations saw some residents paying much higher increases.

The impact of the coming year's proposed increase on a home on a section with the average land value of $147,000 has been estimated at $60, taking the bill to to $2442 for the year.

The law no longer obliges the council to consult on its draft plan, given there are no significant changes from what was already in year three of the council's 10 Year Plan, but it has chosen to go out for submissions anyway.

The proposed consultation document outlines ten major projects for the coming year.

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They include the Library of the Future upgrade, building the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre in the Victoria Esplanade, laying a third hockey turf at Massey University, and building the He Ara Kotahi cycle and pedestrian bridge across the Manawatu River.

It also proposes a number of savings, such as closing the Bunnythorpe Transfer Station, removing the option to pay council bills at the Ashhurst Four Square store, and removing provision for a Bike Manawatu off-road cycling track.

Some projects are proposed to be delayed, such as the Railway Rd to Bunnythorpe cycle and pedestrian pathway, and provision of a natural burial cemetery.

Others are likely to be carried out sooner than originally planned, including a number of library projects to enhance its makeover, and extending the roll out of LED street lighting to major roads.

The plan indicates debt by the end of June, 2018, will have climbed to $127m. That is $24m less than the 10 year plan anticipated, and falls within the council's prudential borrowing limits.

But what could be the elephant in the corner is the start on investigations into what the city should do with its wastewater.

There is $620,000 in the coming year's draft budget to start that work that will look at options from better treatment and continuing discharge to the Manawatu River, moving to land-based disposal, or some combination of the two.

At the moment the forward budget assumes the upgrades, for which resource consent applications must be lodged within five years, could cost between $35m and $140m.

The council's own audit review identifies that costs above that minimum would be a major issue for the council's financial position.

It could mean borrowing more than what is prudent, or delaying other capital projects in the current 10 year plan.

Once the draft plan has been finalised by the full council, it will go out for a consultation period ending on Tuesday, April 18.

Community meetings have been scheduled from March 29 to April 8, with hearings on May 3-5.

After considering what people have said, the council has to adopt its budget by the end of June.


 - Stuff


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